How long can you beat on the same property before you realize that you are not going to get anything lucrative out of it or you are approaching it in the wrong way entirely? This is exactly where Sony Pictures lives with their Smurfs franchise. In 2011, they decided to go the blended live action and CGI route with the Smurfs. Hank Azaria played Gargamel being unleashed on the city of New York with Neil Patrick Harris being a human conduit into the story. Even with these live-action heavy hitters, the film made just over half a billion dollars, which sounds lucrative until you know that the movie was made for over a hundred million – and that’s not including marketing, usually a big money drain on kids films. Hoping to make a bit more money, 2013 saw a sequel to Smurfs for roughly the same price that failed to break $350 million, disappointing the execs at Sony. For some reason, that wasn’t a sign to give up. Instead, we get a fully animated third movie, Smurfs: The Lost Village.
For this installment, much like the second film, the story is based around Smurfette. Quick backstory: Smurfette was created by Gargamel (the bad guy), but she was made a full Smurf by the leader, Papa Smurf. The Lost village delves into each Smurf’s purpose, and it is quickly established that Smurfette is experiencing a sort of existential crisis because she doesn’t have any discerning dominant trait. This leads her on a sort of soul searching walk where she comes across a possibly undiscovered Smurf who leaves a yellow hat behind. When Smurfette is inadvertently captured by Gargamel, he begins a hunt for a “lost village” of hidden Smurfs while she must escape to find them herself and warn them of the incoming evil sorcerer.
To this point, all of the Smurf films have been an awful mess of lazy storytelling, product placement and lowest common denominator slapstick humor and, let me tell you, The Lost Village isn’t going to change any minds. With some of the worst scripting possible and an obvious handcuffing of some great voice actors with known improv chops (like Danny Pudi and Rainn Wilson), Smurfs continues it’s lackluster cinematic journey of being forgettable to kids and nauseating to adults. Hasn’t Sony clued into the success formula of other studios when it comes to animated films? Encompassing the entire audience comes out better for everyone, trust me.
It’s my prediction that Smurfs: The Lost Village will be the final straw for Sony and this property that delighted audiences on Saturday mornings in the eighties. For me, one of the kids of that generation, it feels almost embarrassing to bring up the fact that I loved the original cartoon given how much it has been retooled to be this vapid bastardization of what it used to be. I’m always against saying that remakes, reboots and reimaginations ruin the original source material or destroy childhoods but these films tarnish the legacy of how the material is looked at by the current generation and just add more fuel to the fire of why a whole story like the Smurfs can’t work now. Apologies to the little blue guys that live in mushrooms, your relevance is completely depleted. 0.5/5